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Michiganders Come Together To Help Save Family’s Home From Foreclosure

Michiganders are standing up for this family and trying to help them keep their home. (Credit: Bartosz Kumor)

Chris Savage is a Michigan-based political blogger who writes at Eclectablog.com.

As winter sets in on Michigan, the Occupy movement is moving into homes — foreclosed homes, that is. With the assistance of a newly formed group Occupy Our Homes, homeowners facing foreclosure in Michigan and across the country are fighting back.

Michigan is one of four states that had over half of the nation’s home foreclosures last month. The same four states (including California, Florida and Illinois) make up only 26% of the country’s population. According to RealtyTrac, 1 in 282 homes in Michigan received a foreclosure notice in October 2011.

Chart courtesy of RealtyTrac.

On Tuesday of this week, as part of a National Day of Action for the Occupy movement, one couple in the Detroit suburb of Southgate, Michigan took a stand against attempts to throw them out of their home. Debbie and Robert Henry, with support and help from the friends, neighbors, community supporters, and allies from Occupy Detroit, announced that they would not comply with any efforts to foreclose on their home or to evict them.

The Henrys have lived in their home near where Debbie grew up for 7 years. The home is now worth less than a third of what they paid for it thanks to collapse of the housing market
fueled, in part, by the very banks responsible for many of the foreclosures across the country. Their mortgage was originally through Countrywide Financial, but was eventually sold to Bank of America. After Debbie had a stroke and lost her job, she and her husband were unable to maintain their payments and attempted to obtain a mortgage loan modification. However,
unbeknownst to them, Bank of America proceeded to sell their mortgage to Fannie Mae rather than working with them to stay in their home. The sale of this mortgage and thousands of
others like it has the ironic effect of transferring the cost of the foreclosure process to American taxpayers. Bank of America, meanwhile, reported a $6.2 billion profit in the third quarter of 2011.

“Our home was our future, and we thought that we’d invested wisely. We were making our payments, even though now it’s worth a third of what we paid for it,” said Debbie, a former
manager at a food services company. “But after I had my stroke, we just couldn’t keep up. We tried to work with the banks to get a fair deal, but they gave us the run-around for years. Now they want to throw us out. I thought they got all this taxpayer money so that families like us could have a second chance.”

About 20 people joined the Henrys at their home yesterday for a rally. Watch it:

Shannon McEvilly, a volunteer organizer with Occupy Our Homes said in a statement, “The taxpayers and citizens of this country are sick and tired of seeing bailed-out bank CEOs make
million dollar bonuses while hard-working, tax-paying families like the Henrys in Southgate get thrown out of their home. When it looked like the whole financial system was going to collapse, we sucked it up and bailed out the banks. We thought that meant they would turn around and do right by homeowners and small businesses. It’s time that banks lived up to their promises and put our community before their profits.”

Family member Suzie Williams, told MLive.com, “They don’t want a handout.
They just want fairness. They don’t deserve to spend their retirement in homelessness. I don’t care what Fannie Mae has to say about it. I will stay here with Debbie and Rob if the bank
comes to kick them out.”

Robert and Debbie hope their campaign leads to a loan modification from Fannie Mae instead of foreclosure, and that it brings attention to the plight of millions of American homeowners in similar situations. The family and their friends announced that they would engage in non-violent civil disobedience, up to and including their arrest, if local authorities attempted to remove them.